Babrius, Fables

LCL 436: 4-5

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ὧν νῦν ἕκαστον ἀνθίσας ἐμῇ μνήμῃ μελισταγές σοι λωτοκηρίον θήσω, πικρῶν ἰάμβων σκληρὰ κῶλα θηλύνας.


Ἄνθρωπος ἦλθεν εἰς ὄρος κυνηγήσων, τόξου βολῆς ἔμπειρος· ἦν δὲ τῶν ζῴων φυγή τε πάντων καὶ φόβου δρόμος πλήρης λέων δὲ μοῦνος προὐκαλεῖτο θαρσήσας 5αὑτῷ μάχεσθαι. “μεῖνον” εἶπε “μὴ σπεύσῃς” ἅνθρωπος αὐτῷ, “μήδ᾿ ἐπελπίσῃς νίκῃ· τῷ δ᾿ ἀγγέλῳ μου πρῶτον ἐντυχὼν γνώσῃ τί σοι ποιητόν ἐστιν.” εἶτα τοξεύει μικρὸν διαστάς. χὠ μὲν οἰστὸς ἐκρύφθη 10λέοντος ὑγραῖς χολάσιν· ὁ δὲ λέων δείσας ὥρμησε φεύγειν ἐς νάπας ἐρημαίας. τούτου δ᾿ ἀλώπηξ οὐκ ἄπωθεν εἱστήκει. ταύτης δὲ θαρσεῖν καὶ μένειν κελευούσης,

  • 17ἀνθίσας Crusius, ἂν θείης A.
  • 18So Immisch, νῶ τὸ κηρίον A.
  • 19θηλάσαι A, corrected by Ahrens.
  • 4δὲ μόνος B, δὲ τοῦτον A.
  • 5σπεύσῃς editors, σπεῦδε A.


shall adorn each of those fables with the flowers of my own Muse. I shall set before you a poetical honeycomb, as it were, dripping with sweetness, having softened the hard chords of the stinging iambic. a

1 The Lion and the Bowman

A man came on a mountain to hunt, skilled in shooting with the bow. All the animals turned to flight and were full of fear as they fled. Only the lion had the courage to challenge the man to fight with him. “Wait,” said the man to him, “don’t be so fast, nor count on victory; first get acquainted with my messenger; after that you’ll know what’s best for you to do.” Then standing a short distance away he let fly an arrow, and the arrow buried itself in the lion’s soft belly. Fear overcame the lion and he dashed away in flight to the lonely glens. Not far away stood a fox, who told him to pick up his courage and make a stand. But the lion replied:

  • aThe “softening” here mentioned, and also below in the second prologue, probably refers to the mild, good-natured, and humorous or poetical tone and spirit in which the author writes, and what he says, rather than to a structural peculiarity of the metre as such which would produce that effect musically. In the same metaphorical sense of this metrical terminology, the iambic and choliambic lines of Callimachus and of other Hellenistic poets, such as Herodas and Phoenix of Colophon, may be said to be softened and mild in comparison with the hard and “stinging” lines of the earliest users of iambic verse, the Ionian poets Archilochus and Hipponax. Owing to the precedent set by these early poets iambic metre came to be closely associated in men’s minds at all times with bitter personal satire written in a sarcastic, injurious mood.
DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.babrius-fables.1965